hebron clashes 224.88.
(photo credit: AP)
"Today we are going to break the bones of anyone who dares to demonstrate in the street," a Palestinian police officer shouted at a group of journalists as they arrived to cover the funeral of a man who was killed a day earlier during protests against the Annapolis peace conference.
"Are you from the Aksa TV?" another police officer jokingly asked a Danish TV crew, referring to the Hamas-run station.
The two officers were among some 300 policemen who were deployed outside the Hussein mosque in the center of this city to prevent an outbreak of violence during the funeral of Hisham al-Baradi, 37.
Baradi, a member of the Islamic fundamentalist Hizb al-Tahrir [Party of Liberation], was shot dead by security forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during fierce clashes that erupted here on Tuesday.
Determined to prevent a repeat of the anti-Annapolis demonstrations that swept the West Bank on Tuesday, PA security commanders issued firm orders to their men to use an "iron-fist" policy against anyone who breaks the law.
On the eve of the conference, the PA leadership in Ramallah, citing security concerns, banned all public protests.
But the ban did not prevent thousands from taking to the streets of West Bank cities to voice their opposition to the US-sponsored conference. The demonstrations, which came as a surprise to the PA leadership, were organized by both Hamas and Hizb al-Tahrir.
The harsh response of Abbas's security forces did not stop thousands of supporters of the two Islamist groups from participating in the funeral of Baradi on Wednesday.
Following noon prayers, the mourners, many of whom were carrying Hamas's green flags, tried to march toward the Palestinian policemen waiting outside the mosque.
But when they were blocked, some of them hurled empty bottles and stones at the nervous policemen, who responded by opening fire into the air from their Kalashnikov rifles.
For nearly 60 minutes, the area outside the mosque was turned into a battlefield reminiscent of the clashes that used to take place between Palestinians and IDF soldiers.
By the end of the day, residents said at least 60 people were injured, half of them policemen. Many residents expressed fear that the clashes signaled the beginning of a civil war among the Palestinians in the West Bank in the aftermath of Annapolis. Others said the protests and anarchy actually marked the beginning of the end of Abbas.
"I can't believe these are Palestinian policemen," said Ahmed Da'ana as he hid inside his shop to avoid the shooting. "They are behaving worse than the Israeli army. This is going to lead to civil war."
A woman who passed by as the policemen were still firing into the air and beating demonstrators broke into tears. "Shame on you!" she barked at the stunned policemen, some of whom had masks on their faces. "What's this? Is this what Arabs are doing to each other? Allahu Akbar [God is great]! Where are the Muslims? Where is the world?"
Brandishing his rifle, one of the policemen tried to silence her by shoving away the journalists who had gathered around her. Undeterred, she continued to hurl abuse at the policeman and his friends, accusing them of being collaborators with Israel and the US.
Then the same policeman went on to threaten a CNN correspondent that he would break his camera if he dared to broadcast his picture. A day earlier, several Palestinian journalists were severely beaten during the demonstrations by Palestinian policemen.
Senior PA officials have since apologized for the attacks on the journalists, vowing to launch an investigation.
Hizb al-Tahrir spokesman Maher Ja'bari, who attended the funeral, said Baradi had been killed only because he dared to express his opinion during a public protest. Like many residents of Hebron, which has long been known as a stronghold for Hamas and other Islamic organizations, Ja'bari said he believed that Abbas was on his way to losing control over the West Bank.
"I believe this is the end of the Oslo Authority because all papers are now on the table and there's nothing left to hide," he said. "They are talking very clearly now. They are accepting Israel and the resolutions that are against Islam.
So they cannot have public support any more.
"This is the end of Abbas's existence. If he wants to turn his regime into an oppressive one, then this is a different story. This is his choice. He's working according to the US and Israeli agenda. He's not working for the cause of his people, but for the occupier."
Explaining his party's ideology, Ja'bari said: "We are a political party. Our struggle is purely political. We are known not only in Palestine, and we are not a Palestinian party. We in Palestine and other Islamic nations are not against peace. We are against giving our lands to the occupier. We call for peace. This land is a message for peace. But this political peace is not the will of the people because it gives the right to the occupier to have rule over the lands of Muslims.
"There is no way, according to Islamic teachings, to accept an occupier on the land. This is not only in Palestine. It's also in Afghanistan and Iraq. When we talk about occupied Palestine, we mean the land from the river to the sea, not only the West Bank and Gaza. There is no room for the state of Israel. When they move out of all of Palestine as a state, there can be peace." â€¢
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